Mr. O’Donnell is a veteran of presidential debates, having served as a top debate coach to Senator John McCain of Arizona during the 2008 campaign. In that role, he helped prepare Mr. McCain for debates against Mr. Romney and brings those insights to the current sessions.
Mr. O’Donnell helped coach Mrs. Bachmann during her debates as well, but also became a senior strategist for her campaign, likely helping to shape some of the congresswoman’s sharpest attacks, including ones against Mr. Romney.
Last night's debate was brutal for Newt Gingrich, because he wasn't prepared for Romney to change his debate strategy. O'Donnell discovered the flaws in Romney's debate performance and eliminated them. Further, he gave Romney a specific strategy for that one debate, which is something Romney apparently never had before—at every other debate, his strategy seemed to be "run like you're already the nominee, and then let the clock run out." Romney's outrage still felt phony, and he's still clunky on a human level, but he brought just enough of a change to his style and delivery to crush Gingrich.
We're at that weird time in primary season when the leading candidate Frankensteins a team together out of the successful bits of all the other campaigns. Sometimes this strategy works. Other times, it fails gloriously—that's when we get the really juicy gossip from inside campaigns, usually. O'Donnell, with his experience prodding at Romney's prior debate performances, proved to be a great addition to the team. Gingrich is looking a hell of a lot more unelectable now.